I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Ides of March (2011)

Stephen (Ryan Gosling) is a smart, ambitious staffer who works on the presidential campaign of Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney).  Morris is an Obama-like candidate; a campaign poster bearing his image is similar to ones the real life president used early on in his run for office.  Morris is good-looking, articulate, and says all the things the masses want to hear.  Paul (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is the head campaign runner, and he and the staff work hard to put Morris ahead in the polls and drum up support.

There's the usual dose of political strategies and deals done.  Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), the guy who's running the campaign of Morris' competition, convinces Stephen to meet with him.  This is a political no-no, but Stephen meets Tom in secret.  Tom claims that Morris has no chance.  He admires Stephen's work, and he wants him to come work for him.  Stephen turns it down, but somehow, the news of the clandestine meeting is leaked.  Ida (Marisa Tomei), a political reporter, wants Stephen to spill the details or else she's going to run with what she knows.  But this becomes the least of Stephen's problems when he learns of a scandal that could bring Morris' campaign crashing down.

I went to this movie with a friend who told me as the credits rolled, "I could never be in politics with all that going on."  I agreed.  As the daughter of a precinct captain, I was privy to how underhanded the political world could be, and still is.  My late father tried to get both my younger sister and I involved in that world, but the "one hand washes the other" mentality turned us off.  Clooney directed this film, co-wrote the screenplay, and helped produce it.  He did a good job of showing the fast paced, backroom dirty deals and compromises that politicians and their supporters do to win an office.  The Stephen character comes off as being a bit idealistic at first, but a cynical, dark side comes slowly comes out when he has to make some hard decisions throughout the story.  I also liked the Senator Thompson character, played by Jeffrey Wright, who operated purely from a "what's in it for me?" standpoint.

George Clooney appeared on series TV ("The Facts of Life" and "ER", both on NBC) before transitioning to the movies.  He has an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor 2005 (Syriana).  Ryan Gosling was in Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) and The Notebook (2004).  Phillip Seymour Hoffman was in Capote (2005).  Paul Giamatti appeared in Cinderella Man (2005).  Marisa Tomei is a Supporting Actress Oscar winner for My Cousin Vinny (1992).  Jeffrey Wright was in two James Bond movies -- Quantum of Solace (2008) and Casino Royale (2006).

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Friday, October 07, 2011

Real Steel (2011)

In the near future, boxing involving flesh-and-blood participants has been banned.  It has been replaced by boxing matches between super-charged robots.  Former fighter Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a down-on-his-luck, robot boxing promoter.  He seems to owe everybody money.  After running out on a bet that he lost to Ricky (Kevin Durand), one of his former opponents, Charlie learns that an ex-girlfriend has passed away.  The ex-girlfriend's sister, Debra (Hope Davis), wants no trouble out of Charlie as she and her rich husband want custody of Max (Dakota Goyo), the child Charlie fathered with the late woman.

When Charlie learns that Debra and her husband Marvin (James Rebhorn) are going on an extended getaway, he bleeds money out of  Marvin under the guise of wanting to watch Max while they're gone.  Charlie's plans to leave Max with Bailey (Evangeline Lilly), the owner of the gym where Charlie used to train is changed when Max decides he's going with him.  Turns out that Max loves robot boxing, and besides, he believes Charlie owes him for running out on him after he was born.  After a dangerous moment on the road, Max finds Atom, a robot that he intends to make a winner out of -- with Charlie's help, of course.

This is a different sort of entry into the genre of boxing movies.  I couldn't help but think of that old kids' game called Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots while I was viewing this film.  The fight scenes are nicely done, and the interaction between Charlie and Max is nice.  However, the movie is pleasant, nothing more.  The plot devices here have been seen too many times, and audiences know the outcomes.

Anthony Mackie, who played an arrogant boxer in the movie Million Dollar Baby, appears here as a guy who runs underground robot boxing matches.

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